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Simon Vouet (French: [vwɛ]; 9 January 1590 – 30 June 1649) was a French painter and draftsman, who today is perhaps best remembered for helping to introduce the Italian Baroque style of painting to France.

Simon Vouet
Self-portrait of c.1626-1627
(Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon)
Born(1590-01-09)9 January 1590
Paris, France
Died30 June 1649(1649-06-30) (aged 59)
Paris, France
EducationFather's studio, stay in Rome (1613-27)
Known forPainting
Patron(s)Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu


Vouet's allegory La Richesse was painted about 1640, possibly for one of the royal chateaux of France (Louvre)
David with the Head of Goliath
Heavenly Charity

Simon Vouet was born on January 9, 1590 in Paris.[1] His father Laurent was a painter in Paris and taught him the rudiments of art. Simon's brother Aubin Vouet (1595–1641) and his grandson Ludovico Dorigny (1654–1742) were also painters.

Simon began his painting career as a portrait painter. At age 14 he travelled to England to paint a commissioned portrait and in 1611 was part of the entourage of the Baron de Sancy, French ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, for the same purpose. From Constantinople he went to Venice (1612) and was in Rome by 1614.[2] [3]

He remained in Italy until 1627, mostly in Rome where the Baroque style was becoming dominant. He received a pension from the King of France and his patrons included the Barberini family, Cassiano dal Pozzo, Paolo Giordano Orsini and Vincenzo Giustiniani.[2] He also visited other parts of Italy: Venice; Bologna, (where the Carracci family had their academy); Genoa, (where from 1620 to 1622, he worked for the Doria princes); and Naples.

He was a natural academic, who absorbed what he saw and studied, and distilled it in his painting: Caravaggio's dramatic lighting; Italian Mannerism; Paolo Veronese's color and di sotto in su or foreshortened perspective; and the art of Carracci, Guercino, Lanfranco and Guido Reni. Vouet's immense success in Rome led to his election as president of the Accademia di San Luca in 1624.[4] In 1626 he married Virginia da Vezzo who modelled Madonnas for Vouet's religious commissions.

Simon Vouet, St. Catherine

Despite his success in Rome, Vouet suddenly returned to France in 1627, following pressing recommendations from the Duc de Béthunes and a summons from the King. A French contemporary, lacking the term "Baroque", said, "In his time the art of painting began to be practiced here in a nobler and more beautiful way than ever before," and the allegory of "Riches" [illustration, left] demonstrates a new heroic sense of volumes, a breadth and confidence without decorative mannerisms.

Vouet's new style was distinctly Italian, importing the Italian Baroque style into France. He adapted this style to the grand decorative scheme of the era of Louis XIII and Richelieu and was made premier peintre du Roi. Louis XIII commissioned portraits, tapestry cartoons and paintings from him for the Palais du Louvre, the Palais du Luxembourg and the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. In 1632, he worked for Cardinal Richelieu at the Palais-Royal and the Château de Malmaison. In 1631 he also decorated the château of the président de Fourcy, at Chessy, the hôtel Bullion, the château of Marshal d'Effiat at Chilly, the hôtel of the Duc d’Aumont, the Séguier chapel, and the gallery of the Château de Wideville.

In Paris, Vouet was the fresh dominating force in French painting, producing numerous public altarpieces and allegorical decors for private patrons. Vouet's sizeable atelier or workshop produced a whole school of French painters for the following generation, and through Vouet, French Baroque painting retained a classicizing restraint from the outset (although Vouet was not as classical as his contemporaries, Nicolas Poussin and Philippe de Champaigne).

His most influential pupil was Charles le Brun, who organized all the interior decorative painting at Versailles and dictated the official style at the court of Louis XIV of France, but who jealously excluded Vouet from the Académie Royale in 1648. Vouet's other students included Valentin de Boulogne (the main figure of the French "Caravaggisti"), Charles Alphonse du Fresnoy, Pierre Mignard, Eustache Le Sueur, Nicolas Chaperon, Claude Mellan and the Flemish artist Abraham Willaerts. Also gardener André Le Nôtre, later a landscape architect, studied in his studio. Vouet was also a friend of Claude Vignon.

A number of Vouet's decorative schemes have been lost but are recorded in engravings by Claude Mellan and Michel Dorigny.[2]


  • 1990 : retrospective of Simon Vouet's work at the Galeries nationales of the Grand Palais.
  • 2002-2003 : Simon Vouet ou l'éloquence sensible at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes (5 December 2002 – 20 February 2003), devoted to drawings from his French period now in the collection of the Staatsbibliothek in Munich.
  • 2008-2009 : Simon Vouet, les années italiennes (1613–1627) (21 November 2008 – 23 February 2009), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes,[5] in collaboration with the Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'archéologie de Besançon (where it toured 26 March to 29 June 2009).


The ill-matched couple (Vanitas), c. 1621, from the Roman period was painted in Caravaggesque style (National Museum, Warsaw).
Simon Vouet, Sleeping Venus

Decorative schemesEdit

  • Palais de la Justice
  • Palais Cardinal, Musée des hommes illustre
  • The Châteaux de Rueil
  • Château de La Muette
  • Château-Neuf de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, The Four Cardinal Virtues
  • Château de Fontainebleau
  • Residence of Chancelier Séguier (hôtel)
  • Residence of Maréchal de La Meilleraye
  • Residence of Président Tuboeuf
  • Church of Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs à Paris, The Assumption (1629), Apostles at the Tomb of the Virgin
  • Church of Saint-Etienne à Chilly-Mazarin, Burial of Christ (1639)
  • Hôtel-Bullion
  • Church of Saint-Merry à Paris, Saint Merry releasing the Prisoners (1640)

Royal tapestriesEdit

  • Renaud and Armide, Renaud in the arms of Armide (1630–1660), Louvre
  • Moses saved from the waters (Old Testament)
  • The Life of Ulysses (labours of Ulysses)

Studio and copiesEdit

  • Saint Sebastian (1618–1620), Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation (USA)
  • Saint Peter visiting Saint Agatha in Prison, 1624
  • Intelligence, Memory and Will, Capitoline Museums, Rome
  • Virgin and Child à la rose, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille
  • Hesselin Virgin and Child, Louvre
  • Sainte Marie Madeleine, National Gallery, Rome
  • Allegory of the Fine Arts, National Gallery, Rome
  • Allegory of Peace, National Gallery, Rome
  • Allegory of Charity (1640–1645), Museum of Draguignan
  • Diana, Somerset House, London
  • Virgin and Child with an Angel, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen
  • Suicide of Lucretia, Narodni Gallery, Prague
  • Roman Charity, Musée Bonnat, Bayonne
  • Burial, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
  • Martyrdom of Saint Eustace, church of Saint-Eustache, Paris
  • Diana, Royal Collection, Hampton Court
  • Hercules among the Olympians, Royal Collection, Hampton Court
  • Minerva, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
  • Virgin and Child, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
  • Virgin and Child, Ashmoleam Museum, Oxford
  • Virgin and Child, Musée Magnon, Dijon
  • Apollo and the Muses, National Hungarian Museum, Budapest
  • Salome, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento California


  1. ^ Simon Vouet at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ a b c Brejon de Lavergnée, Barbara. 'Simon Vouet', Oxford Art Online.
  3. ^ "Artist Info". Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  4. ^ Bissell, R. Ward (2011). "Simon Vouet, Raphael, and the Accademia di San Luca in Rome". Artibus et Historiae. 32 (63): 55–72. JSTOR 41479737.
  5. ^ Perugi, Fabien. "Simon Vouet, les années italiennes (1613-1627)". Retrieved 20 April 2018.

External linksEdit